Purpose: To evaluate the relation of physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness to morbidity, mortality, and functional limitations in older persons.
Data sources: We reviewed published reports related to the review's purpose. Sources were identified from recent major reports and position statements from scientific and public health organizations, our files, and reference lists of published papers.
Study inclusion and exclusion criteria: We included prospective epidemiological studies and clinical trials published in the peer-reviewed literature that included data from age groups of people 60 years and older. We evaluated study methods and included studies that used valid measures of exposures, clearly specified outcomes, and controlled for confounders.
Data extraction methods: We extracted by detailed review data on sample characteristics, outcomes, and rates and relative risks.
Data synthesis: Extracted data were included in tables, figures, or the text and were synthesized by nonquantitative methods.
Major conclusions: Active and fit individuals were at much lower risk for morbidity, mortality, and loss of function when compared with sedentary and unfit persons. Data from the studies generally conformed to a steep inverse dose-response gradient across activity or fitness categories. Results were consistent, temporally appropriate, strong, and graded, and therefore support a causal hypothesis that a fit and active way of life improves health and function in older individuals.